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The Best Documentaries Without Narration

Updated December 29, 2019 209 votes 29 voters 2.8k views38 items

List RulesOnly documentaries without narration. No voiceovers allowed.

If you are looking for visually-stunning documentaries that leave words by the wayside then this is the list for you. Several of the films on this list are non-verbal documentaries while others capture the voices of their subjects but they are all without voiceover narration. This allows for the view to be submerged into the visuals and sounds of the film without verbal influence. Not all of these are non-verbal documentaries as some feature people that speak on camera but there is no voiceless narrator. Some of these films are also non-narrative documentaries, meaning that they do not follow a story or definitely do not try to sway the viewer with words. They can be considered to be more visual essays than narrative films. There are also documentaries that allow the animals to speak for themselves such as Anima Mundi by Godfrey Reggio.

Observational documentary films such as the Qatsi trilogy by Godfrey Reggio have also been referred to as tone poems. The Qatsi trilogy includes Koyaanisqatsi (1983), Powaqqatsi (1988), and Naqoyqatsi (2002). Febian Nurrahman Saktinegara is another film make on this list that uses time lapse photography to tell a story using only images. The juxtaposition of imagery is obviously meant to evoke emotion but what emotion specifically is entirely up to the viewer. Vote up the documentary films that you love experiencing and vote down the visual docs that left you wanting more.

Check out this list to see if your favorite non-narrative documentary is on Netflix.

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  • 1
    Samsara is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
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    Samsara

    Ron Fricke

    Released2011

    Samsara is a 2011 non-narrative documentary film, directed by Ron Fricke and produced by Mark... more
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  • 2
    Baraka is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    12
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    Baraka

    Ron Fricke

    Released1992

    Baraka is a 1992 non-narrative documentary film directed by Ron Fricke. The film is often... more
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  • 3
    Totality is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    10
    2

    Totality

    Billy Mallery

    Released1999

    Totality is a 1999 American documentary film directed by Billy Mallery. A unique look at total... more
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  • 4
    Koyaanisqatsi is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    9
    1

    Koyaanisqatsi

    Godfrey Reggio

    ActorsLou Dobbs

    Released1983

    Koyaanisqatsi, also known as Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, is a 1982 film directed by... more
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  • 5
    Powaqqatsi is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
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    2

    Powaqqatsi

    Godfrey Reggio

    Released1988

    Powaqqatsi, or Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation, is the 1988 sequel to the experimental 1982... more
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  • 6
    Anima Mundi is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
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    Anima Mundi

    Godfrey Reggio

    Anima Mundi is a 1992 short documentary film directed by Godfrey Reggio.

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  • 7
    Man with a Movie Camera is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration

    Released1929

    Is this one of the best experimental films ever?

  • 0
  • 8
    Landscapes at the World's Ends is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration

    Released2010

    Landscapes at the World's Ends is a 2010 New Zealand documentary film directed by Richard... more
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  • 9
    Visitors is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    6
    4

    Visitors

    Godfrey Reggio

    Released2013

    Visitors is a 2013 American documentary film, written and directed by Godfrey Reggio,... more
  • 0
  • 10
    Berlin: Symphony of a Metropol is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration

    Released1927

    Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis is a 1927 German film directed by Walter Ruttmann, co-written... more
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  • 11
    Chronos is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    5
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    Chronos

    Ron Fricke

    Released1985

    Chronos is a 1985 abstract film directed by Ron Fricke, created with custom-built time-lapse... more
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  • 12
    Ballet Mécanique is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    5
    0

    Ballet Mécanique

    Dudley Murphy, Fernand Léger

    ActorsAlice Prin

    Released1924

    Ballet Mécanique is a Dadaist post-Cubist art film conceived, written, and co-directed by the... more
  • 0
  • 13
    Bodysong is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    1
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    Bodysong

    Simon Pummell

    ActorsJonny Greenwood

    Released2003

    Bodysong is a 2003 BAFTA winning documentary about human life and the human condition directed... more
  • 0
  • 14
    Dogora: Ouvrons les yeux is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    0
    0

    Dogora: Ouvrons les yeux

    Patrice Leconte

    Released2004

    Dogora: Ouvrons les yeux is a 2004 film directed by Patrice Leconte which has been compared in... more
  • 0
  • 15
    Manhatta is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
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    2

    Manhatta

    Charles Sheeler, Paul Strand

    Released1921

    Manhatta is a short documentary film directed by painter Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul... more
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  • 16
    Manufactured Landscapes is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    0
    2

    Manufactured Landscapes

    Jennifer Baichwal

    Released2006

    Manufactured Landscapes is a 2006 feature length documentary film about the work of... more
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  • 17
    Naqoyqatsi is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    2
    5

    Naqoyqatsi

    Godfrey Reggio

    ActorsSteven Soderbergh, Bhagwan Mirchandani, Jack Shamblin

    Released2002

    Naqoyqatsi, also known as Naqoyqatsi: Life as War, is a 2002 film directed by Godfrey Reggio... more
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  • 18
    Sweetgrass is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    0
    4

    Sweetgrass

    Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Ilisa Barbash

    Released2009

    Sweetgrass is a 2009 documentary film that follows modern-day shepherds as they lead their... more
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  • 19
    Atlantis is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    5
    0

    Atlantis

    Luc Besson

    Released1991

    Atlantis is a 1991 documentary film about oceans, filmed over a two-year period by Luc Besson.
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  • 20
    Coral Sea Dreaming is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    2
    2

    Coral Sea Dreaming

    David Hannan

    Released1999

    Coral Sea Dreaming is a documentary film directed by David Hannan.
  • 0
  • 21
    Ruhr is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    2
    0

    Ruhr

    James Benning

    Released2009

    Ruhr is a 2009 experimental, documentary film written and directed by James Benning.
  • 0
  • 22
    Laya Project is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    5
    5

    Laya Project

    Harold Monfils

    Released2007

    Laya Project is a 2007 American documentary film directed by Harold Monfils. It is a world... more
  • 0
  • 23
    Snow is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    1
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    Snow

    Geoffrey Jones

    Released1963

    Snow is a short documentary film made by Geoffrey Jones for British Transport Films in... more
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  • 24
    El Valley Centro is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    0
    2

    El Valley Centro

    James Benning

    Released1999

    El Valley Centro is a 1999 documentary film directed by James Benning.
  • 0
  • 25
    13 Lakes is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Documentaries Without Narration
    2
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    13 Lakes

    James Benning

    Released2004

    13 Lakes is a 2004 documentary film written and directed by James Benning.
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